Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Family Vacation

It has been nearly three years since our last family vacation. For those of you doing the math, that means I haven't ever participated in one. We decided to head for Colorado. While we have been there before, we had yet to venture past the Estes Park area. So, our plan this time was to see Denver and Colorado Springs and do some fun stuff in between. We got to fly this time around. I was very excited to take to the skies for the very first time. I was a pretty good passenger (a lot of that was thanks to Thomas on Day of the Diesels playing on the kindle). I am getting slightly ahead of myself though. Our official vacation started on Friday. We headed to Wheaton as soon as Daddy got home from work, to stay with Daddy's buddy, Mr. Chapman and his family. My brother and I were ideal travelers on the way up. We were very excited to meet Bennett and eat pizza with him. After a scare that evening (you'll have to read Ryker's blog for that story), we dozed off to sleep so we were somewhat rested for the flight.
The next day we flew out of O'Hare to Denver. Once we were back on the ground, we stopped for some lunch and then off to Uncle John & Aunt Emma's where we would settle in for our week long stay. I love Uncle John and Aunt Em...and I told them that over and over again. I think I made them laugh a lot. I met my new best friend just seconds after arriving at their house. Her name is Niah. She's a very sweet, very patient black lab/pillow/bed for me. I put that wonderful dog through the ringer in a week's time. She never snapped, never bit, never even curled up a lip to scowl. She let me cuddle on her, lay on her, kiss her, and even steal her crate from time to time to play in. Talk about man's best friend!

In flight nap.
First flight. 

Welcome to our home away from home in Denver!
Oh, Niah.

Our first couple of days we got acclimated to the altitude and relaxed with our family. The view off of Uncle John & Aunt Em's deck is amazing! We explored their back yard, threw a lot of balls for Niah to go find, and I even took a dip in the bird bath. Uncle Ken & Aunt Mary Ann were actually in town, too, so we got to go out for yogurt and have a couple of dinners with them. We took a spin around their neighborhood park. Their slide got my seal of approval.

Mountains always in view.

The view off the deck...yep, those are the mountains over there, too.

Frozen yogurt with Uncle John, Aunt Mary Ann, Uncle Ken, and Aunt Emma (and my bro, Dad, and Mom).

Driving Uncle John's little car.

Come Monday, the touristy part of our adventures began. First stop: Candy Shop! You'll get no arguments from this boy when it comes to sweets. We watched the pros make giant candy canes, lollipops, carmels, and marshmallows. After our tour of Hammonds, we got to sample some tasty treats! Then we headed for the Firefighters Museum. It was pretty neat. My brother turned into a real fireman for a couple of hours. I didn't quite take it that far, but I did enjoy myself. We dressed up in real fire attire, slid down the pole, and even got a lesson on fire safety from a masked man that resembled my Dad. Hmmm. After that we had lunch and then hit up another candy store. After day one, which included two stops for candy, I was thinking Colorado was the greatest place on earth!


They made me wear this hat for the picture.

Two handsome firemen.

Dad's so funny.

I put the mask on.

Day two was a blast...because we became miners and went searching for gold. We strolled deep into a mine where we got a tour and got to see lots of gold. I rubbed the "lucky bucket" for good measure...please note, I was the only one in our family that did rub the lucky bucket, so if in the future some good fortune rolls my way, you might want to high tail it to Idaho Springs and give it a try yourself! Ha! After our tour, we went to the stream and panned for gold. Yes, we got to keep every little fleck of it that we found. I didn't have much patience for the panning, though. I struck it rich by picking up large rocks and throwing them into the water. It was the highlight of my day. I got so into it that I ended up taking a swim...literally. I got a bit off balance and fell backward and sat down in the stream. For good measure, I stumbled a few minutes later and did a little face plant in the water. I loved the splashing, but I wasn't a fan of all the wet clothes. So, Mom did a quick change-a-roo on me (and Ryker because panning for gold in a stream is just a recipe for wet clothes) and we headed out for lunch. I was a little skeptical of going to a brewery at first, but then I found out that they make their own root beer and almond cream soda...and I was sold! Mom, Ryker, and I all downed our hand crafted sodas, while Uncle John & Daddy sampled the more traditional brewery beverage. We finished just in time to stroll down the downtown street into (yet another) candy shop and satisfy my sweet tooth. Then, it was mountain time. Mt. Evans is one of the highest paved roads in the states. However, it was pretty snowy the day we were there. Despite us donning our shorts and t-shirts and mid 70s on the thermostat at the foot of the mountain, our road was stopped at Echo Lake on account of deep snowfall. Ryker and I loved our short stop at the lake to toss snowballs and see snow flurries fall while wearing shorts and t-shirts. Colorado is awesome!

Again with the hats?

Lucky bucket?

Panning for gold.

"I throw the rock."

"I throw the big rock!"

Looking for gold sure does make a fella thirsty.

Here's where they made our root beer.

Echo Lake

I got a snow ball, and I'm wearing summer clothes...ha!

Echo Lake
Day three, we headed to the Springs. Aunt Emma & Uncle John came with us. We had a great time! Our first stop was Royal Gorge. It's a giant gorge over a 1/4 mile from one side to the other. It has one of North America's largest suspension bridges, too! It took no time for me to head for the "telescopes" and check out the views and the river below. I spotted the skycoaster across the way...Mom was trying to talk Dad into going on it with her, but he decided that wasn't for him. Ryker and I just cracked up watching the people swing out over the rocks and scream. Hilarious! We road a tram across the gorge, road a trolley and spotted various animals (one day old white bison, two week old long horn sheep). Then we walked across the bridge. We capped it off with a train ride down to the bottom on one of the steepest railways ever! 

After a brief nap, we went rock climbing. Garden of the gods is full of giant red rocks that resemble all kinds of funny shapes, like camels smooching or giant footprints. We went hiking and climbing, picture taking and the likes. It was fun to ride in the hiking pack on Daddy's shoulders...everyone should take relaxing hikes like that!

Royal Gorge

Tram ride looking out at the bridge.

Whoa, that's a long way down.

Crazy D!

Would you put this cute face behind bars?

Royal Gorge Bridge

Climbing aboard "Thomas", our blue incline railway car.

One day old white bison.

Two week old big horn sheep.

Incline railway, at the bottom looking up.

At the bottom of the gorge.

See that little red dot? That's the tram we were on earlier.

Garden of the gods.


Ryker showed us a giant footprint.

Daddy and I at the top.

Don't worry, he has a good hold on me because this thing could topple at any minute (no not really).

Hiking in luxury! 

Garden of the gods.


Kissing Camels.

Giant Footprints.

Cathedral Rock.

Pike's Peak.

Tuckered boys.
Day four was the much anticipated trip to the mountain...Pike's Peak to be exact. We boarded our choo choo in the morning and made our way 14,110 feet up in the air. We got to see lots of big rocks, lakes, trees and then the trees stopped...and the sky looked more blue than usual, and the clouds looked super close. There were some big horn sheep and marmots, and the train stopped and we got off at the top of the mountain. We scurried in to get some of the infamous hot donuts (Mr. Bryan, aka "Daddy's Buddy" told us about these donuts when we met him on Friday and from that point it was kind of all my brother and I talked about: we're flying on an airplane, we're going to see Aunt Em & Uncle John, we're going to see the mountains and have hot donuts). They were tasty and really hot! Good thing because it was really cold up there. We looked out and could see forever. We were told that we could see the continental divide, three states away, and they even pointed out Denver and Garden of the gods...and they looked like teeny tiny towns from so far up in the air. We snapped a few pictures before Mom passed out (she had no idea but she was getting hit pretty hard by the altitude) and then boarded the train. On our way home we stopped by the Air Force Academy and walked around. We liked the wide open spaces, the big airplanes, and the fun lights inside the cathedral.

Choo choo!

On our way up the mountain!

On the way up to Pike's Peak.

MMMM, donuts!

This background looks fake...but it's for real!

Seeing forever from the top of the mountain.

Air Force Academy

To the Cathedral.

Inside the cathedral.

The Air Force Cathedral.

After a relaxing evening back "home" again in Denver, we decided to make our last full day a low-key one. We went to Glassman & Hanson Jewlers...the Hanson in that place would be my Uncle John. He squashed pennies for us until they super big. This was a favorite past-time of my Dad's when he was younger and now it is one of ours. Fun stuff. We soaked up as much Uncle John, Aunt Emma, and Niah time as we could before we headed out the next day.

Smashing pennies.

BBQ with Daddy

Why is it that going home seems to take so much longer than leaving home? I wasn't in the mood for a nap (how can a kid sleep when he's just experienced so much fun stuff?), so the flight home was a little rough toward the end. We made it back to Chicago and made our way to Mr. Bryan's house. Daddy's other buddy, Mr. Ryan, was there with his family. So we got to play with Noah and Katie. We piled in the tent, shot baskets, and made lots and lots of noise. The pictures from that night are indicative of the evening...pure chaos in its most enjoyable form.

Daddy's Buddies...and the little buddies.

Miss Jill did a puzzle with me!

Pure chaos!

We slept most of the drive back to Indy before sharing Mother's Day with Mommy, recovering from our two hour time change and the fact that we no longer had mountains out our window and Niah to cuddle up with in our home sweet home. If vacations didn't end then I guess we wouldn't enjoy them so much, and that is exactly what we did. We made tons of memories as a family and that is exactly what Mom and Dad were hoping for when they planned this trip and they got even more than they could have hoped for...and so did this guy. Thanks for catching up with me. Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend!

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